By Mitch Phillips
GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - Paul McGinley leaned on all the experience gained as a player and vice-captain in five previous Ryder Cups to ensure he kept his head after a tough first morning and it paid off with Europe's record-breaking comeback performance on Friday.
The hosts trailed 2 1/2-1 1/2 after the opening fourballs in which their biggest names -- Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter -- misfired horribly.
McGinley, however, decided to stick largely to the plan he had for the afternoon and was rewarded when Europe posted their best-ever foursomes result, a 3 1/2-1/2 victory to secure a 5-3 overnight lead.
"Something I've learned from Jose Maria Olazabal, from Monty (Colin Montgomerie) and from the guys I've been vice captain under and guys I've played under is that you're not going to win every session," he told reporters.
"We've lost more sessions than we have won in recent times but it's important not to panic and it's important to look at the 24-hour period rather than just one session and then assess and go again.
"I had an overall, as I call it, a skeleton plan. What I saw in the morning, I still thought there was no reason to change that. I wanted to get all 12 players out on the course today and we did that. Now I feel we're in a better position to adapt and make decisions going forward."
McGinley's decisions certainly looked good in terms of the performances by the men rested in the morning.
Lee Westwood, in his ninth Ryder Cup, and Jamie Donaldson, in his first, played superbly to begin the fightback by beating Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar.
Likewise, Graeme McDowell and another rookie Victor Dubuisson gelled nicely to beat Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, who looked weary compared with their raring-to-go rivals.
McGinley was particularly pleased at the way the blend of experience and nervous enthusiasm worked in both pairings.
"Jamie relished and was very fortunate to have a guy of Lee Westwood's calibre on his shoulder in his first Ryder Cup match," he said.
"It's no coincidence that Nicolas Colsaerts had 10 birdies playing in his first Ryder Cup match with Lee Westwood at Medinah. That's why I put Lee out first.
"Just Lee's presence makes these guys relax and play great but Lee also played absolutely fantastic.
"With Victor I've put a lot of work into him in the last six months and translated a lot of that to Graeme who has really hit the ground running with him.
"During the summer I had it in mind that they would be a partnership."
What had looked Europe's strongest partnership, between McIlroy and Garcia, did not turn out that way but even that plan had a happy ending after looking like being a double defeat.
They were beaten by Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley on the 18th in the morning and trailed by two with two to play against Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker in foursomes before a barnstorming double-birdie finish snatched a half point.
"Just because you go out and you lose a match in the Ryder Cup doesn't mean you're a bad partnership," McGinley said.
"They seemed to be spinning their wheels a lot without really going forward but it just shows you the resilience to have the finish that they did and I wouldn't hesitate putting them together again."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)